Dark Knight, Rising Son, Pt. 1
Dark Night Descends
laughed. "I'm serious. The view is literally out of
joke is older than you are."
He was serious,
too. There was little cloud cover over the Earth, providing a spectacular
view of Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. It was what made
the observation port the most popular spot on the International
Space Station. The seven-member crew awoke every morning to beautiful
panoramas as they floated overhead, their station on-line and operational
for almost a full year.
in front of the communications console, holding a white-knuckle
grip on the control panel to better appreciate the image of the
attractive female on the video monitor. After a week of horticulture
experiments, a full day of repair work on the solar panels and four
hours of non-stop video conferencing with the suits at the International
Aeronautics Space Administration, all he wanted now was face-to-face
time with his wife.
trying to work you till you collapse?"
She was teasing
him again, but it never failed to brighten his day. "I'm fine,
Leslie. We're breaking for dinner in a bit and calling it a day.
I wish you and little John could be here. You both would love it."
she laughed, thinking about how a five-year-old would respond to
zero gravity. "I've enough work to do just keeping an eye on
him. Oh, by the way, his teacher says he's reading at a second grade
my boy. He'll be following in his old man's footsteps."
if I have something to say about it."
did. She was as willful as the little boy they were raising. Not
that he would have wanted her any other way. She was the only one
he ever knew who did not take any guff from him. What a woman,
have to go now. We can talk again tomorrow. Kiss John goodnight
for me, will you?"
Her voice trailed off a bit. She was becoming sad; he could always
you too. Bye."
Her image faded
from the screen. He missed her- as much as he missed little John.
Assignments on the ISS were for six full months, and he had only
been on board for three weeks. Video calls were random at best,
but necessary for his sanity since the IASA bigwigs did not schedule
flights in between projects for astronauts to visit their families.
three months annual leave later, he told himself. After all,
John will only be young once.
shift crewmembers were already gathered in the dining compartment,
dining on bags labeled minestrone, barbeque chicken patties and
orange juice. How they could tell the difference was beyond him.
Except for color, they all looked alike once they were in the bags.
They were nutritious, perhaps, but he preferred fried chicken and
ribs with a side of grits any day to them. But he was hungry, so
he grabbed a packet of dark red and a tube of yellow anyway.
looked up from his meal, and shifted to accommodate his shipmate.
"Evening, Colonel. Did you hear the message IASA sent us?"
Jack bit into
his chicken patty. "Which one is that? I got several from them
ÎThis is the
one that says Hubble telescope caught some images of an object heading
this way. They want us to keep an eye on it."
is it, a meteor?"
his head. "Doubt it. Could be American paranoia, but I swear
they're a little nervous about it."
getting to that Colonel, but we didn't want to alarm you, especially
while you were talking to your wife."
to see James Gordon, his second in command, floating into the dining
area. He never had the look on his face that he did unless it was
something that would be considerably less than pleasing.
Colonel, you should finish that quick and come with me. There's
something I want to show you."
They were gathered
in the main command module when the message started up. All eyes
fixed on the main video monitor. A series of images played in random
order, transmitted from the Hubble telescope's database.
It was not
a meteor. Silhouetted against the planet Jupiter was the outline
of a ship. It was a long cylindrical construction with a large ring
interconnected to it. Jack looked on in childlike astonishment.
It had to be enormous to be photographed at that distance.
what it is?" His gaze remained locked on the images.
his head. "It's nothing we made, that's for sure. IASA estimates
it's almost a mile in length. We do know it's heading this way according
to estimated trajectory, and they're slowing down. IASA wants us
to broadcast a message, to try and make contact with them."
like a plan. Let's hope they come in peace."
they don't tovarisch?" Comrade Sergei never hid his
pessimism. "What do they want us to keep them in line with,
Jack said nothing.
They were coming, whether they liked it or not. A friendly nod their
way might help if it was to be first contact.
protocol, they broadcast several messages, each in different Earth
languages. The ship was still moving fast and would be approaching
shortly. There had been no response, so they resigned themselves
to wait and see if it yielded any results.
watched the view screen in the command module, volunteering to keep
watch. Several hours had passed since the greetings had been transmitted,
with no reply heard. She was the only female member currently aboard,
and said she needed what she called a "non-masculine diversion."
Jack gave her the shift and remained close by making coffee while
the others rested.
A small object
appeared on the screen.
It was approaching
the station and slowing down.
the alarm. "There's a small ship approaching!"
Most of the
other crewmembers streamed into the command module while they looked
out an observation portal at the unidentified craft. It was slightly
larger than the Farscape evacuation module docked under the
ISS. It was box shaped, with two pods extending out the sides towards
the front of the craft. A pulsing light shot out of the top of the
craft, streaming over the body of the ISS.
are they doing?" Jack said.
be a scout ship. I'd reckon they're sizing us up, figuring out who
we are," said James. "We should send another message."
over to the communications console and picked up the microphone.
"Unidentified craft, this is Colonel Jack Crichton, commander
of the International Space Station. Please identify yourself and
state your intentions. We are a peaceful world, and we offer you
was silence, and then a high-pitched distortion came through the
receiver that made everyone wince just before they received their
tiujj sweewon ellfattsu zwaon Zelbinion. Huk nelzzun toi ajun ka
dropped. "What the hell was that? It sounded like backwards
Jack held up
the microphone again. "Unidentified craft, we don't understand
your language. Do you have any way to translate?"
explosion rocked the station and threw the ISS crewmembers against
the stations bulkhead. The hissing sound of air escaping announced
a hull breach in the station.
their translation?" Sergei asked.
they're firing at us, Jack thought to himself, already knowing
portal, yellow bolts of light were coming out of the strange craft,
striking the Japanese Experimental Module linked above them.
the hatch!" Jack said. "We have to get to the escape ship
Arashi and Ito are still in the JEM above us!" Tomoko said,
starting to panic. "We have to save them! We-"
She never finished.
An explosion cut her off. There was a loud burst following by a
high-pitched shriek that sounded of oxygen escaping rapidly. Jack
scanned the module quickly for the leak; there was none. The shriek
had streamed out of Tomoko, now crying hysterically. A tattered
body that floated out of view outside told them the end result.
The JEM shattered under the craft's energy weapons. The second Japanese
crewman must have disintegrated instantly. They were the first to
die against the invaders.
murderers." Jack cursed. The ISS had offered the hand of friendship,
and got bit- hard. "We have to abandon ship now! Everybody,
move it before they get us, too."
rocked the station. Sergei contacted the other Russian crewman at
the far end of the station while Jack led the others down below
the habitation module to where the Farscape evacuation vehicle
cockpit, they could see clearly what was happening up above. Fast
moving ships that resembled fighter planes had joined the craft-
Prowlers, as they would learn later. They passed in a strafing run,
firing their weapons down upon the ISS. The truss assembly was already
disintegrating, with remnants of solar panels and cables flying
past the Farscape's windows. Several of the modules in the
front of the ISS had already imploded. Jack could see bright flashes
above the ship and felt the whole station shaking.
the ship for immediate departure as the remaining crew entered in.
Tomoko, James and Sergei nearly completed the head count. The other
Russian member of the station still remained absent.
pointed out to the front window. "Does that answer your question?"
front of the Farscape, a Soyuz craft, the second evacuation
vehicle was undocking, attempting to flee from the rapidly disintegrating
Jack felt his
heart skip. "Dammit, why didn't he come with us?"
was no time," Sergei said. "All the modules have collapsed.
He would be out there dead with Arashi and Ito now if he had."
you spoke too soon." Tomoko said quietly, her voice trembling.
While the Farscape
undocked, Jack and the others watched as the craft that had first
approached them hover between them and the Soyuz module.
It began to turn towards the Russian craft, powering up its weapons.
Jack hollered. "He doesn't have a chance! Isn't it enough they
chased us off the station?"
weapons flashed and the Soyuz module exploded. Earth was
only spared for a moment the knowledge that the first humans had
perished at the hands of aliens.
The fire from
the burning Russian ship quickly died out, and the craft turned
its attention to the Farscape module. The survivors went
silent as they watched its approach. Screaming in terror seemed
like a moot point.
die as well." James's voice echoed their thoughts. It was hard
to see any other outcome.
hell. That's not going to happen," Jack said.
Using the maneuvering
jets on the Farscape, he quickly rotated the ship around
with its back facing the alien craft. He waited for it to close
the distance between them. Through the exterior cameras, he saw
the glow where the craft powered up its weapons. As it came directly
in range behind them, he pressed the ignition switch, igniting the
Farscape's main rockets.
roared to life, shooting out a long white-hot tongue of flame that
bathed the alien craft, burning through its hull. Farscape sped
away rapidly, widening the distance between them and the station.
Jack looked back and saw the ship explode, much to his satisfaction.
It had been
a Marauder, the eyes, ears and claws of the enemy. Its destruction
earned them the only victory the humans would have in space against
was for the others."
what?" Sergei asked.
we get back in one piece," Jack said. "We have to let
IASA and everyone else with an operating military know what just
happened. There has to be some way to stop·"
He never finished
the sentence. From a distance, Jack and the other ISS survivors
saw the giant black ship as it came into view. It was the same one
the Hubble had photographed earlier. Its size beggared description,
even bigger than they had imagined.
A set of three
guns rotated into view on the giant ring that circled the Command
Carrier. The frag cannons fired a massive burst of energy down upon
the ISS. They watched in horror as the International Space Station,
hundreds of billions of dollars in cost and six plus years of construction
were destroyed in an instant.
onslaught had begun. They most assuredly had not come in peace.
Part 1: A Slave
to the Grind
3, 2037 (Earth calendar), Gotham City
He was dreaming-
It was the
same dream he re-lived for years. In dim shades of gray he saw the
bad men surrounding the boy and his parents in a dark place- an
alley or back street, taunting and prodding them. Fear seized hold
of him. Tears ran down the cheeks of the young boy's eyes. His father,
protective and defiant, cursed them soundly while holding his wife
close to him.
There was a
flash, a burst of heat and then silence. He turned to see his father
and mother falling over dead. The smoking wound left by a weapon
was visible on their chests. He felt himself paralyzed, unable to
cry or speak. All around him the bad men laughed mockingly. In his
world he became totally and completely alone.
A shadow appeared
just then and covered everyone. Even the bad men looked up, startled
at the apparition. The boy stared in terror at the dark mass. Was
it a wraith? Maybe it was the angel of death itself. A pair of leathery
wings stretched out to an impossible width. He could hear the fluttering
of the wings just before waking to a loud buzzing that filled his
opened his eyes. The alarm clock had been going off for a full minute.
He covered his eyes with his hand, trying to adjust them to the
light that shone through his bedroom window. Jackhammers raged on
in his head, considering the hard throbbing. He drank too much last
night, just like every other night. His foot contacted an empty
whiskey bottle as he moved off his bed and nearly slipped. He moaned
loudly, wishing it were not Monday, but it was. It was time to get
up and go to work for his masters.
After a quick
shower and shave, he selected a pair of slate-gray pants and a pressed
white shirt to go with his black shoes and tie. He disliked having
to wear a white-collar outfit for them, but his Peacekeeper employers
insisted on a dress code.
It's not like
there was much choice. He did what they told him. He already used
up most of the sick time he was allotted for the year, and being
late could bring penalties. Co-workers and friends droned over and
over not to do anything rash to jeopardize what he had: a nice apartment
in the best section of Gotham City, his own car and the benefits
and privileges of having a high profile job, even if it was a master-slave
relationship. The Peacekeepers were rarely so generous to the rest
of the populace. Many humans struggled to get goods and services.
He had it easy compared to most.
Downing a glass
of orange juice and a bagel, he took the elevator down to the garage
and slid into his car. It was better to stay ahead of the morning
traffic, to avoid showing up late. He made it a point to be punctual,
but never early. Just like the way he used up his sick leave, he
would not give the Peacekeepers any more of his time than he had
streets remained wide, and he quickly turned the corners passing
graffiti strewn walls and crumbling buildings. Many of the people
standing on the corners and walking the sidewalks looked haggard,
and not because they just woke up. A hard life under Peacekeeper
occupation was an understatement. Peacekeepers considered Earth
a fruit ripe for harvest, which is why they plundered its resources
like there would be no tomorrow. The fact that there was also an
oppressed but intelligent species living there that happened to
look Sebacean was of little concern to them.
people into the city areas to better watch them, and maximized farming
and mining operations in the rural and wilderness areas into strictly
controlled collectives- just like elsewhere on Earth. Video cameras
peered out from buildings, armored vehicles cruised around with
mounted pulse guns and checkpoints patrols clad in black were seen
all over the city. The Peacekeepers wanted complete control, and
they had it.
his car down. To his left on a wide space of wall that remained
where an old store had once stood, someone had spray-painted a message
on the wall in big letters·
FOR THE RETURN OF THE BATMAN
was supposed to be an old urban legend according to Peacekeeper
propaganda. To Gotham's old timers before the invasion he was a
real flesh and blood man. To everyone else, he was merely a pipe
dream. John doubted the legend. He had never laid eyes on him, not
even as a child or he would have remembered. Years of working for
the Peacekeepers had given him first-hand experience at the strange
and unusual, not to mention making him a bitter, jaded, remorseful...
himself. He hated going to that place in his head. It was best not
to think about it. Better to get back to the real world.
consisted of working for the Peacekeepers' science projects while
they harvested billions of tons of ore, oil, uranium and other precious
materials to ship back to their home systems. They needed plenty
of fuel to further their other conquests.
If only there
was a Batman today to fight the Peacekeepers. Whoever wrote the
message on the wall was lucky they were not shot dead. There was
no such luck for the former. He shook his head and continued on,
stomping down on the gas pedal.
the next red light, the tall silvery spire of the Peacekeeper Tower
came into view. Twice the height of the next tallest building in
Gotham, the residents referred to it as the stiletto that stabbed
Earth in the back. He simply referred to it as his workplace.
guard in the booth glanced indifferently at John's identification
card and promptly sent him through. John stifled the urge to give
the guard the finger as he saluted his car's entry into the building.
The day had just started- no sense in making it worse. They were
known to shoot at the human's for a lot less.
morning. You look like crap," said DK, John's lab partner and
childhood friend as he walked into the office.
like crap," John said. "Did you make coffee yet?"
made a fresh pot." DK watched him walk past without another
word. "We have the results from the magnetic wave tests if
you want to see them."
Put them on my desk. I'll stare at them totally uninterested in
a little while."
DK looked at
him, worried. "John, don't let them hear you say that. You
don't want to-"
what I have· yeah, yeah. I've heard the speech before. Jesus Christ,
you practically wrote it."
So, what's bothering you?"
himself a cup of coffee and took a deep drink before answering.
"I had the dream again last night. In black and white and full
Dolby stereo surround sound."
you think you should see a doctor about it? I mean it seems to be
happening a lot. And your drinking might be helping to exasperate
at him hard, and then turned away. "That's great, DK. You think
a doctor will help? Jack Crichton's boy is going nuts from a bad
dream, and he's an alcoholic. The moment they see the doctor's
report, our Peacekeeper Gestapo will send me to Arkham Asylum. Do
you know what they actually do to people there?"
John, keep your voice down. They're always listening. Don't you
remember what happened to Alex?" DK was a worrier, and he worried
a hell of a lot these days. John was on his way to becoming a candidate
for reprogramming, and that could include close associates. Peacekeeper
techniques were painfully efficient, and DK was aware of them all.
John never calmed his fears, not even a little.
want to talk about it."
I don't want to talk about it."
"All right, I'm sorry. Can we try and get on the right foot
his head softly. "Okay, okay. I'm sorry, too. Where are those
magnetic wave results again?"
John and DK
walked into the huge chamber where the human and Peacekeeper scientists
performed various tests on the heavily guarded machines that were
set up all over the building. Throughout the day, fluctuations in
the electromagnetic spectrum were measured, energy particle accelerations
were sampled and board meetings with the members of Peacekeeper
High Command lasted for arns- hours. They were insistent on results
from the work they had the humans assisting them with.
John put on
his best look of cooperation while desperately trying to kill his
conscience. He told himself he was not betraying Earth, that he
was merely a victim of circumstances. The excuse never worked.
night, Dr. Crichton."
waved to the Peacekeeper guard who opened the gate for him. He preferred
to keep contact with them to a minimum. After all, irreversible
contamination could work both ways, or so Dr. Kanor, the head Peacekeeper
scientist, would joke to him. "You don't want to cause one
of us to suffer irreversible contamination from contact with a foreign
species, do you, Dr. Crichton? We may have to eliminate you as well,
and who wants that to happen?"
only smile politely at the pun while fighting the urge to punch
out the obnoxious ass that he was.
the gas pedal, he sped off into Gotham's wet, neon-lit streets.
It was early evening, when Gotham really came to life. It had long
been considered a city of the night even before the coming of the
Peacekeepers. He cranked up the heater on his dashboard; it was
chilly for October. He needed a bite to eat, as well as another
bottle of scotch- or maybe some merlot. But more importantly, he
had to meet someone from the resistance.
a dimly lit street, his eyes focused on the cul-de-sac at the far
end where a tall figure stood silently, awaiting his arrival. As
he pulled up in front of a green trash bin streaked brown with rust,
he could see a middle-aged woman under the lone streetlight.
She was strikingly
beautiful. Her long dark hair had a streak of silver running through
it in the front. Her figure was quite solid beneath her tight clothes
for a woman of her age. Of all the Earth resistance contacts he
had met, she was not one of them. He would have definitely remembered
is up here, handsome."
manners, John cleared his throat and straightened himself. "Are
She held a
long black cigarette up to her mouth. He watched the tip glow as
smoke billowed out between a pair of bee-stung lips.
would I be, Poison Ivy? No, she died pretty quick when the PKs hit
this burg. Or so I was told."
He tilted his
head. "You know who I am?"
heard of you. You work for your Peacekeeper masters during the day,
and help pass along Earth resistance info at night. Tell me, does
it help you to sleep?" She threw the cigarette down and crushed
it under her boot. "Or does all the booze help, too?"
She walked up nose-to-nose with him to sniff at his breath. "I
suppose not. Don't you ever get tired of licking Scorpius' boots?"
off lady, you know nothing about me."
than you could imagine," she said smoothly, as she cocked her
head. She reached down and picked up the package sitting on the
ground beside her by the twine wrapped around it. "Here are
the pamphlets. The virus chip is wrapped inside the top one. Use
it cautiously when you upload it into their systems."
John took the
box from her, examining it briefly. "If only it were that simple.
We have to bypass their safeguards."
slightly. "That's not my part to deal with, Johnny."
He shook his
head- no point in arguing with her. "It's too bad the Batman
doesn't exist. We could use help from someone like him, nowadays."
froze. "What do you know about the Batman?"
some urban legend. A crime fighter in dark tights, used to beat
the bad guys up. He must've been their boogeyman. My parents told
me about him when they were alive. Whatever he was, he must have
been too good to be true. Why do you ask?"
She threw back
her head and laughed heartily. "How can you be so handsome,
yet so clueless? Did the PKs tell you that? He WAS real, Johnny.
Just like your alien masters are. When Batman was alive, this city
had law and order. He kept the peace for everyone, even for a manipulative,
thieving soul like me." She sighed, remembering the past. "God,
do I miss that man."
"So, what happened to him?"
her shoulders. "Who knows? Maybe he just got tired. When the
PKs came, I guess he thought he had met his match and left while
he still could. Or maybe·"
he's just been hibernating, waiting for a day when he would come
back and take back what is rightfully ours from these goose stepping
Huns." Selina cocked her head at John. "It's too bad you
don't believe in our heroes. You and he have more in common than
you can imagine."
at her, still confused. "Why do you say that?"
before your father died, did he or did he not tell you that every
man gets a chance to be his own kind of hero?"
His jaw dropped.
No one living could have known that. No one else was present when
his father told him that just days before he died.
She held up
his watch that she expertly removed from his wrist while he had
accepted the parcel from her. "Booze has killed your senses.
Batman would never have fallen for a simple thieves' trick like
down at his arm and saw a bare wrist. He never even felt the watch
being removed. "Give it back," he said, becoming angry.
So, there is still some fire left inside of you. I guess the Peacekeepers
didn't smite it all out," Selina said. "That's good; you
may need it down the road." She threw his watch back to him.
"It's time for me to go. I need my beauty sleep. Reflect on
what I said, handsome."
to walk back to his car, but hesitated. "Hey Selina,"
he said as he turned around, "what did you mean by-"
She was gone.
There was no one in the cul-de-sac but him. She had disappeared
without a sound. A lone black cat ran out from behind the trash
bin and stared at John for a moment before disappearing into the
John sat in
his apartment, looking over the pamphlets in the box he had received
from the mysterious woman. He paused only to take a bite out of
the hamburger he picked up driving home. Distributing Earth resistance
information to the population was an easy task, but using a custom
made computer virus was a first. The design of it intended it to
cripple all the information systems at the Peacekeeper Tower. All
weapons projects the Peacekeepers had been developing would hopefully
be junk by tomorrow- if they were not killed first.
He stood up
to stretch. Selina's words had stung him. That there was some truth
to it made it worse. Would he still have the desire to pass on resistance
information a year from now? He might wash away his sorrows in a
bottle for all he knew. The Peacekeepers had that effect on the
majority of the populace.
Even a drink
would not settle his nerves. He walked into the kitchen and opened
the cupboard to where he kept his liquor stash. An unopened bottle
of Johnny Walker Red stared back at him. He stood there for a long
time, and then finally closed the door. It must have been worse
than he thought. His hand on the cupboard handle was shaking.
Johnny Walker, Johnny Walker Crichton· Why not, they had worse nicknames
This was not
the life he- or his father- had pictured for him. But he told himself
his options were severely limited the day he and his mother were
killed. Bend and obey or crawl through the mud, they told
him in indoctrination school. Many complied, but he could never
forget the image of his parents lying dead in that alley. It was
the one thing that stopped him from being their puppet, and the
one thing that had broken him.
gets a chance to be his own kind of hero, his father said to
him once. He never felt like a hero. Heroes never drank themselves
into a stupor, or used it as an excuse to numb the guilt of being
alive. A drink did seem more reasonable now.
There was a
beeping noise in his ears. The soft glow of green letters appeared
on the blank computer screen and began spelling out something. He
had left his computer on to send some encrypted e-mails to other
resistance members, but he had not expected receiving any tonight,
and that made any incoming message suspect. As he approached the
computer slowly, his nerves began to get the best of him- could
the Peacekeepers have cracked the coding he was using?
at his desk, he read the message, source unknown:
I HAVE WATCHED
YOU FOR A LONG TIME.
I KNOW YOUR
PAIN. YOU SEEK ANSWERS. A SLAVE WILL NOT FIND THEM FROM HIS MASTER.
YOU WILL NOT FIND THEM IN A BOTTLE. BREACH THE NORTHERN PERIMETER
AND TRAVEL NORTH 40 KILOMETERS TO THE MANOR RUINS. YOU WILL FIND
A DARK KNIGHT
followed. Confused, he switched off the computer.
you think it was?" DK said, puzzled.
But I'm sure it wasn't the Peacekeepers. There was no door being
blown off the hinges and taking me off somewhere into the night
to be tortured." John sighed. "It had to be an unknown
code signal to get through to my system."
of which, do you have the virus with you?"
his coat pocket, indicating the chip was still there. It resembled
the standard Peacekeeper data chip, with one important exception.
"I got it right here- our little yellow pill. We upload this
into the PK Network, and it's nuked. I just have to get into the
DK shook his
head. "Not this time, buddy. I'm due up there for a systems
check. Let me do it."
around the centrifuge chamber the two of them stood in. Peacekeeper
guards stood at every door and cameras kept an eye on the mass of
scientists, officers and other personnel that moved about. How much
video equipment does one organization need to use? If they were
discovered, they would be captured before they could blink. There
was one chance to us the virus program. Any mistake meant being
pulse-blasted to a crisp.
what you're thinking," DK said. "You're not a sellout,
all right? You brought the chip this far. Most people wouldn't have
the guts to do this. But now, it's my turn, ok?
sure this is foolproof?" John said, reaching into his pocket
for the chip.
Crichton, there you are."
froze leaving it in his pocket. He turned to face a tall lean man
who was balding on top. Dr. Kanor reminded him of a bad b-movie
actor who always played Nazis or psychos. He escorted a bearded
Peacekeeper officer that approached them both.
DK, I would like you to meet Commissioner Bialar Crais. He was recently
sent to take over the leadership for the Peacekeeper's Law Enforcement
Liaison here in Gotham City." Kanor gestured towards the bearded
was darker than the average Peacekeeper. He wore the long black
tunic that designated a high-ranking official. A silver badge on
his left chest with a chain connecting it to his left shoulder epaulet
symbolized Peacekeeper Law Enforcement. His stone-faced expression
alone identified him as a PK cop. He did not bother with formalities,
as his hands remained clasped behind his back, offering no handshake.
Dr. Crichton," Crais said. "Although I cannot speak for
Peacekeeper High Command, I can assure you we appreciate the work
you do for us." He turned to DK. "I also pledge that the
streets of Gotham City will be safe under my jurisdiction."
a smile, trying his best to fake sincerity. "That's good to
hear. I gather the good Dr. Kanor is giving you a tour of our facilities?"
indeed. And I'm quite impressed with the progress here."
should be coming to fruition quite soon commissioner," Kanor
said. "I believe Scorpius will be quite pleased with our project."
would be·?" DK said, asking the question he and the others
were not supposed to ask.
Kanor did not
correct him. Everyone's attention in the chamber was fixed towards
the upper level that occupied the top half of the room. A dark figure
was standing by the rails looking down at the vast centrifuge.
up at a man dressed in black with a purple cloak wrapped around
his shoulders. He was tall and thin, with sunken eyes and a pale
complexion. Guards of the Peacekeeper's elite flanked him. John
winced at the sight of him. It was rare that he ever showed his
face, and judging by his appearance, it was for good reason- he
literally looked like a walking corpse. It was Scorpius himself.
He walked silently
along the rail, examining the people on the lower levels below him.
When his stare met Johns, their gaze locked for a moment. Scorpius'
eyes looked completely human, but there was an abnormal coldness
that penetrated right through him.
He might as well have been looking at the devil. Most humans would
say he was.
At last, he
turned and departed, with his heavily armed entourage following
him. John and the others breathed in relief. They could have cut
the tension in the air with a knife.
get too many visits from him, do we?" DK said.
Kanor said. "He spends most of his time in the uppermost levels
of this tower. No one at our level is privy to what he does."
not be," Crais added.
of course, Commissioner." Kanor led him over to the main exit.
"Let us continue your tour, there is so much left for you to
see. Thank you for your time, Dr. Crichton."
ass-kisser," John said quietly through another forced smile.
"Yeah, notice he doesn't say anything to me?" He reached
into John's pocket and snatched the chip out quickly. "I'll
see you later, buddy. Wish me luck."
him as he walked away, a slight bounce in his step. DK had a flair
for diluting all things tense and frustrating. That ability was
probably the main reason he was still sane. He always felt the need
to be protective of John as if he were being reserved for some greater
unannounced plan. What could be bigger than destroying the Peacekeeper
The doors slid
open and DK disappeared through them. Despite their planning, it
was far too easy. Something was bound to go wrong. He felt that
sensation in the pit of his stomach, and he was feeling it again.
the bile he felt accumulating in his throat, John walked back to
sounded just as John was picking up a computer printout. Looking
up, flashing red lights pulsed over each door as they automatically
sealed shut, preventing anyone from escaping. The speakers repeated
the message over and over as guards and personnel scrambled about:
Unauthorized infiltration by an unidentified viral cascade into
guards scrambled to round up him and the other civilians while his
heart began fluctuating. The sound of pulse weapons firing through
the doorways echoed in the distance. His mind began racing, imagining
the worst possible scenario. DK was no soldier, so he would not
stand a chance.
what's going on?" John said. The Peacekeeper scientist shot
out of the crowd just as they were ushered to one of the emergency
just tried to install a frelling virus into our systems network,"
Kanor vented angrily. "But before the guards could reach him,
some of your brethren in the resistance movement attacked. They
have already been dealt with, but we need to find out how they got
in and who the saboteur was."
He said nothing
further. Kanor's true colors always came out in moments like this.
The spirit of cooperation he purported to preach to humans did not
mean he still did not see them as lower life forms. He knew what
DK's fate would be if he and any of his associates were caught.
Who were the
resistance fighters in the building? Were they part of the plan
to destroy the computer network? He had never been informed by DK
or anyone else. They may have been acting entirely on their own,
and it was a mere coincidence that they appeared when DK was uploading
the virus into the Peacekeeper's database.
likely, John thought.
were sent immediately to the ground floor to wait outside while
security dealt with the skirmishes raging on in the building above
them. The streets were crawling with Peacekeeper police trying to
keep back crowds of curious people gathering in the front of the
entrance. John looked around in the crowd; DK was nowhere to be
one of his assistants, ran up to him. Her long red hair, previously
pinned up in a bun, was coming loose and falling down around her
Are you ok?"
but the guards said they saw DK trying to upload a virus into the
main network's console."
is he?" He would not make it obvious he knew the circumstances.
the cameras caught him using an emergency escape chute in the back
of the tower. By now, he's already down here in the streets somewhere."
right, but not to worry," Kanor said, walking up to them with
a fake smile on his face. "Commissioner Crais has already dispatched
a pair of hunters to apprehend him. He was one of your colleagues,
Crichton. Did you not know he was planning on doing something like
John kept his
face expressionless. If he said anything- one word or even something
insignificant to imply he knew of a sabotage attempt, he would doom
himself. Peacekeeper interrogations were brutal. He would lose everything,
particularly his life.
anything to blow what you have. DK's words echoed in his head.
no idea, Doctor. DK was a bit· radical." He could barely whisper
it. The last part took a lot out of him to say.
on in shock as Kanor walked away, shaking his head in disgust.
say it Barb," John replied. "The damage is done."
DK could hear
his heart beating in his ears and his breathing came out in hard
gasps as he weaved in and out of the side streets and alleys. It
was his own fault; he never exercised like he should have. He paused
along the side of a trash bin and crouched down to catch his breath.
There were no signs of Peacekeeper law enforcement pursuing him,
but that would change.
The plan had
gone from bad to worse. Place the virus chip into the Peacekeeper's
master control to their computer network and destroy all the weapons
projects they were working on. It should have been simple.
Who knew the
Peacekeepers would change the access codes to the entrances on a
workday without prior notice to all personnel? The few resistance
members that made it through before the klaxons went off were quickly
cut down by Peacekeeper security, and he had no cover for an escape.
And the idiot computer hacker who was supposed to interrupt the
cameras and alarm sensors failed to do his part. And to think, he
had received a shining recommendation about his abilities from Lowell,
not to mention a large sum of money for his services.
It all just
went so bad.
quickly to find the escape chute the Peacekeepers built for quick
evacuation of the building, and reached the streets fairly quick.
Removing his white lab coat and throwing it into the bin, he scanned
the street back and forth before running up the block to a getaway
car parked nearby. At least he thought of some kind of back up plan.
he told John more about what they were planning, the operation may
not have gone pear-shaped. But he had hesitated; all the drinking
John had done for the past two years could have made him a liability.
But it was too late for recriminations. Once he was free and clear,
he would try and contact him. Walking quickly down the street, he
stuck close to the shadows, hoping they would afford him some cover.
He failed to
notice two females silhouetted directly above him moving along the
ledge of the building. They were quick and silent; stalking him
like a predator stalks its prey.
There was no
one on the street as he crossed the intersection to the yellow van
that was parked on the other side. He was almost home free. Relief
washed over him- he just needed to get to the safe house.
appeared out of nowhere, landing on the van's roof with a jarring
thud. DK stopped dead in his tracks, and felt his heart leap.
A woman was a surprise, but not unexpected. She was clad in a tight
black outfit with protective pads around the joints. A gauntlet
covered one arm and sleek oval goggles concealed her eyes. It was
the uniform of a Peacekeeper hunter.
move, human, you're under arrest for attempted sabotage! Surrender
yourself, or we'll take you in by force!"
into his pocket and pulled out the mini pulse pistol he had managed
to procure from a dead guard just before leaving the building. He
fired wildly, unused to the weapon's recoil. The woman easily dodged
the bursts and somersaulted down in front of him, knocking the pistol
from his hands and striking him with a lightning-fast kick.
to his feet and ran around the nearest corner, not bothering to
see if she pursued. He barely made it past a fire hydrant when a
second one swung into view on a thin strand of cable. She landed
gracefully on the roof of a magazine stand and brought down her
weapon to bear on him. It was a combination between a pulse rifle
and a crossbow. Aiming directly at him, she fired a ball-tipped
bolt from the crossbow. Air escaped his lungs as the impact of the
projectile knocked him flat on his back and found him covered in
a snare net.
the female's head was directly in front of the sun as it shone down
into his eyes. He could see long raven-black tresses blowing around
her pale face, its smoothness broken only by the goggles that concealed
her eyes. It was the last thing he saw before a pantak jab from
her sent him into unconsciousness.
happened? What did they do to him?"
John ran behind
Kanor, flanked by Peacekeeper security on both sides. He was anxious
to hear anything on DK's fate, but no one was talking.
apprehended him only a few blocks away," Kanor said, clearly
irritated. "We are going to question him and how he tried to
sabotage us. He didn't plan it very well, did he?"
know, Dr. Kanor."
He did not believe it for a moment, but priorities demanded he concentrate
on the situation at hand. Crichton and his associates could always
be questioned later.
an armored vehicle where DK was standing, with a pair of handcuffs
shackling him. Peacekeeper enforcement officers stood around, with
weapons aimed point blank. The two hunters stood off to the side,
conversing with Commissioner Crais, who had just arrived on the
scene. DK remained silent, glancing at John out of the corner of
work, commissioner!" Kanor said as he approached. "I commend
your people. Not even a full arn has passed and they have already
captured this criminal."
said earlier, Dr. Kanor, Gotham's streets will be kept safe and
patrolled efficiently under my authority." Crais smiled uncomfortably.
He was unused to praise.
are, indeed." Kanor turned his attention to DK. "You disappoint
me, DK. You were such a good scientist. Such a pity you had to be
drawn to such hopeless causes. Did you really think you would get
away with trying to destroy the hard work our people have done on
"I guess I'm tired of being a lapdog to you and your masters,
unlike some of my co-workers here." He focused his stare at
John knew the
man he considered his best friend was only trying to protect him,
but words stung him again in the space of twenty-four hours. If
Kanor suspected he knew of any affiliation with the Earth resistance,
everyone would be questioned- or worse. He hid his emotions the
best he could.
insist you and the dead resistance members in the tower acted entirely
on your own?" Kanor's eyebrow arched slightly as he asked the
question. "That seems a little hard to believe. I think a thorough
questioning of all human personnel is in order. We may yet ascertain
the answers we seek."
John said, forcing himself to speak. "Why did you do this?
Do you know what you've done? This is stupid. You've turned against
your friends." Barbara appeared next to John, exhausted from
running to catch up.
the one who's turned!" He screamed. "You're a goddamn
traitor to your own people, Crichton! You want to live under the
boots of these bastards, that's your decision. Me, I'd rather go
next they were not prepared for. Peacekeeper hubris frequently prevented
them from learning from simple mistakes, particularly binding prisoners
from the front. Were DK's hand bound behind him, he would not have
been able to slam his body against the guard in front of him and
unsheathed his pulse pistol- which he did before anyone could stop
out!" Kanor cried. "He has a weapon!"
DK shouted as he squeezed the trigger of the pulse pistol.
The shots went
in all directions, but avoided the area John stood with Barbara
and Dr. Kanor. Instantly, two guards went down in a heap and a third
took a grazing on his shoulder. It was his last act of defiance
as the remaining Peacekeepers aimed their pulse weapons at him and
cut him to pieces. His body convulsed in a spastic dance like a
broken marionette as bolts of energy tore into him, burning his
flesh and tearing apart his insides.
eyes tight, John desperately fought the urge to cry out.
indication of how it affects you.
sounded out in his head: Don't let my death be for nothing.
He kept his head down, his face grimacing to the hardness of rock.
He held Barbara tight, letting her weep into his chest. Her tears
stained the front of his shirt.
them see you cry.
And then, everything
eyes, John could only catch a glimpse of DK's smoldering corpse,
already being gathered up to be casually disposed of. Traitors were
not given proper burials. The body would be incinerated, no mourners,
witnesses, family or friends in attendance. No one to recognize
he was here once. No one to recognize he had made a stand, no matter
how futile it was.
this was. Now, we may never know who all his accomplices were. But,
your men did do an admirable job, Commissioner Crais," Kanor
said, oblivious to the fact Crais lost two men and a third injured
by a prisoner already in custody.
silently as the body of DK was put in the back of the troop vehicle
the human had stood in front of only microts before. "My men
were merely acting on instinct, Dr. Kanor. Things like this come
with the job·unfortunately." Crais frowned.
It was his
first day acting as commissioner, and already there was death. Casualties
were expected during a Peacekeeper's career, he had accepted that.
But it was his men that were lying on the ground as well,
dead from simple carelessness. It was nothing to be proud of. He
hated this part of the job, despite what others would say of all
Peacekeepers in general.
will excuse me Doctor, I have to see that this business is finished
up." Crais turned to the two officers he had been conversing
with. "Huntress Chatto, Huntress Sun? This way, please·"
trailed behind Crais as he walked through the throng of security.
Passing by, the dark haired one turned her head and met Johns gaze.
Whoever she was, she was attractive; alabaster skin contrasted smoothly
against the black form-fitting armor she wore. He looked squarely
into her eyes, covered by goggles designed for night viewing and
concealing her identity, and saw his reflection staring back at
him in duplicate. For a moment, her lips parted, as if she were
going to speak·
And then she
was gone. A helmeted Peacekeeper guard blocked his view and she
disappeared into the growing crowd with the others. A wailing noise
broke him out of his daze. It was not coming from the vehicle that
departed, carrying DK's corpse. There was a little girl in the crowd
was crying, her young mother trying in vain to calm her fears.
killed him, Mommy! The bad men killed him! I hate them!" The
child wailed pitifully.
hush, Caitlin," her mother said, looking nervous. Even mothers
feared their children's passion if it became untethered.
Batman were here, he'd stop the bad men!"
Stop it! Do you want them to hear you?"
Batman· I want Batman·" The child's sobbing continued.
on. Perhaps the little girl had the bad dream, too. How did she
know about the Batman? The stories reached even the young, giving
them some vain sense of hope. She was even younger than he had been
when his parents died. He could almost be envious. She still had
And it was
three times in two days that the name Batman came to him. It seemed
like more than a coincidence. Fate was dealing a cruel hand to him.
Barbara said. "We should go now." She touched his cheek
gently; hers was still wet with tears.
time to get back to work, Dr. Crichton," Kanor said sternly.
"There is nothing more to see. It's all over." Kanor walked
in John's eyes. "No, it isn't," he said under his breath.
Part 2: Night
forward in his chair with his hands folded while he listened to
the message on his answering machine. Anger slowly boiled inside
of him from the images of the past day still burning in his mind.
Crichton, in an effort to find out the answers to the feeble attempt
at sabotage that occurred today, Commissioner Crais has issued instructions
for all human and Sebacean personnel to submit to questioning to
gain any information that may have been overlooked. Your appointment
is tomorrow at 1:30, by the Earth clock. Don't mess up, John. I
would suggest you curtail your drinking, as well. You're one of
the most brilliant members on our staff. Your breakthroughs have
aided us greatly. I would hate to see your smoldering remains lying
on the street like your associates were earlier this afternoon.
Until then, have a good day, Doctor·"
That was his
breaking point. He stood up abruptly, grabbed the answering machine
and smashed it against the wall. Their plan to cripple their Peacekeeper
jailers had crashed and burned, his best friend was dead and he
really felt like a traitor to humanity. DK's final words haunted
him, even if they were only spoken to protect him and the others.
He picked up
the glass of Scotch he had poured and swallowed the remains. It
was the last of the bottle. ÎJust say no' had not applied since
the Peacekeepers ruined his life.
drinking did not make the guilt go away.
not find the answers in a bottle·
from the night before had said something about that as well. Who
could have known that? And what did it all mean? Breach the northern
perimeter and travel twenty kilometers to the manor ruins. What
for his keys, instinctively knowing the trip he was going to take.
He gave the apartment the once over to make sure there was no Earth
resistance material left. He was not sure if he would be coming
back, but just in case, it was best not to leave anything they could
use to hang him with. He wanted to call Barbara to see how she was
holding up, but decided against it. It would be best for now that
no one knew where he was going, since he himself was not entirely
the ignition, the car quickly sped towards the northern part of
the city. All of Gotham City was surrounded by a walled perimeter,
much like Berlin had been during the Cold War of the twentieth century.
The human population was not allowed to roam the countryside without
special permission. Only closely guarded farming collectives and
mines were out in the rural areas, for the purpose of raising crops
for the city populations, or for prison labor. Where exactly a manor
would be, intact or otherwise, he could not even hazard a guess.
It was early
in the evening and there some daylight still remained as he reached
the checkpoint gate where vehicles entered and exited the northern
perimeter. Only then did it dawn on him he did not have an exit
permit or even a legitimate reason to be there. He had rarely ever
seen the gates in this part of the city, let alone drove through
them. It was too late; the guards could see him approaching. Turning
around would look suspicious. Perhaps he could just speed up and
knock the gate down. It was only a chain link fence, after all.
And it was
just pulse weapons that cooked DK's flesh in seconds.
A pair of Peacekeeper
guards stood along each side and motioned for him to stop. Both
were carrying pulse rifles, but their black reflective helmets were
off, revealing young unblemished faces: fresh recruits. He began
formulating the possibility of bluffing his way through the gate.
How hard could it be to fool a couple of kids?
is your destination?" The one guard asked, trying to act as
professional as he could. There was little traffic through the northern
gates, so many of the guards fought off boredom as part of the job.
Gate Farming Collective, nearby." John said. "I'm going
for a quality control inspection."
At this time of the day?"
Somebody found a toe in their hotdog." He could always try
a little levity. Being young, they might be swayed a little.
They did not
even crack a smile. "We need to see your identification and
your exit permit."
He pulled out
his identification card from Peacekeeper Headquarters that he carried,
hoping it would be enough.
I have no exit
permit," John said sternly. He looked the guard straight in
the eye, hoping for a Zen moment, one where they would take his
word and let him drive through with no hassles. There was no such
out of the car."
I'm in a hurry. I-"
out of the car." The guards raised their pulse rifles at him.
He tensed and
slowly stepped out of the vehicle. One guard kept his weapon aimed
at him while the other began to search the car.
look at this," the guard said. He reached down and pulled something
from the floor of the passenger side. It was one of the Earth resistance
pamphlets. In his rush to leave, he forgot he had left one in the
like we got an Earth resistance sympathizer here, Thonn. And one
who works for our side no less." The guard walked around the
car to John. "Peacekeeper High Command doesn't take traitors
in their midst very lightly."
The other guard
laughed. "They'll take you apart like that nurfer who got shot
began to grow. "Shut up."
shut up. You're in a lot of trouble, Earth trash." The other
guard began to push his fingers against the back of John's head.
"They may even send you to Arkham Asylum. I hear the human
females there got it real hard. The guards like to have their way
Turning hard, he slammed his fist full force into the taunting guard's
face. All his pent-up anger and frustration came rushing out in
The other guard,
startled at the sudden attack, stepped forward to fire his weapon.
John wheeled, grabbed the pulse rifle by the barrel, and yanked
it from the surprised Peacekeeper. John bought the rifle up and
swung hard at the man, striking him in the head.
As the guard
went down, the other one got back up and grabbed him from behind,
trying to get him in a headlock. John lifted him off the ground
and threw his weight against the small booth behind them, the impact
knocking the guard off of him. Before he could react, he grabbed
him and began punching him again and again. He could not stop his
assault, even though the guard was already unconscious.
Coming to his
senses, he let go of the guard, his face a bloody pulp. The other
guard was knocked out from the blow from the pulse rifle. John stood
there for a moment; breathing hard and feeling his blood pump so
hard it hurt his chest. The guards were not dead, but there was
no way he could get out of the situation without retribution.
large red button located on the side of the booth, he jumped into
the car and punched the gas, spinning tires as he raced away from
the gates. Night was approaching fast, and he wanted to reach this
manor, wherever it was, if he still could.
roads were cracked and laden with potholes from years of neglect.
John carefully drove around them, watching his odometer to gauge
the distance he traveled, waiting for the sight of a manor to appear.
As he drove along the roads, he was at least glad to see the forests
were still intact and beginning their transformation into a pallet
of reds, yellows and orange as autumn came into full bloom. He even
saw an occasional deer grazing in a meadow off the road. There was
no sign yet of pursuit from the Peacekeepers. Maybe he got lucky
and his journey would go smoothly.
The flash and
explosion of a pulse weapons blast exploding on the road directly
behind him told him otherwise. Twice in one day, and misfortune
still had not let him down. In his rearview mirror, John saw the
shape of a Marauder flying above the tree line.
he swerved his car about; trying to steer clear of the energy bursts
the Marauder rained down on him as well avoiding flying off the
road into the steep inclines that were appearing to his right. The
sky was growing dark, making it harder to see, but he did not dare
turn on his headlights, lest he give the Marauder a clear target.
A stray burst
razed the rear left tire of his car, blowing it apart. Rubber flew
in fragments as he struggled to control the swerving vehicle. Despite
his skill, he could not regain control at the speed he was moving
and it crossed over the railing, careening down a steep ridge and
disappeared through the undergrowth. John slammed his foot on the
brakes, hoping to stop a lethal impact against a tree or rock.
on the hill slowed him down until the car slammed hard against a
thick oak. John's head bounced harmlessly against the air bag that
deployed from the steering wheel. He leaned his head against the
bag for several moments before sitting up straight again. He checked
himself for any serious injuries- a few cuts and scrapes, nothing
more. The sound of the Marauder landing nearby reached his ears,
as he struggled free of the car.
at his car, there was no way to back it out of the position it was
stuck in, let alone get it back on the road. It was totaled. He
had a better chance in the forest, where dense tree cover and the
darkness would hide him from the commandos. From everything he heard
about them, they were worse than bloodhounds.
He ran using
what was left of the light to dodge around trees, thorny shrubs,
and anything he might trip over. The underbrush tore at his clothes,
mud closed around his shoes and the branches of trees reached out
at grotesque angles, seeming to come alive to seize him, all in
the service of the Peacekeepers. His breath came in hard gasps,
howling with each exhalation. His lungs burned despite the cool
October breeze whispering through the woods. He only stopped momentarily
to faintly make out the voices of the commandos as they continued
their pursuit, the Marauder itself circling the area overhead, searching
for a trace of him.
He ran for
hours. His legs became bruised and bleeding from crashing into jagged
rock and sharp branches, his shirt and skin were damp with perspiration
and his whole body ached. But he pressed on- fear of capture was
a strong motivator as much as his own determination. Sounds from
far behind told him the commandos had not ceased the chase. All
he could do was stop for a few spare minutes to catch his breath,
and hope he was far enough ahead to avoid them. And if, by some
small chance, he could elude capture, what would he do next?
overtook him and he collapsed at the edge of the woods. The forest
cover had disappeared. An open meadow lay before him, with a cragged
hill at its far end.
back up, and leaned against a tree, his breathing labored. All the
drinking had taken a toll on his physique. He had run for hours,
struggling to keep ahead of the commandos and the Marauder. They
had not caught him yet, but the pursuit was relentless. The chase
dragged on all night and he had found no manor, nor any sanctuary
to avoid them. Maybe it was all a hoax. It was too late for recriminations
anyway. He assaulted two Peacekeeper guards, left the city without
clearance and made himself look suspicious by fleeing. Too bad there
were no more supplies of arsenic or cyanide·
The hill was
a good quarter mile away from the edge of the woods. Hopefully,
the forest continued on the other side. A point of light began to
shine through a crag of rock on top of the hill. Dawn was now approaching.
focused tighter on the top of the hill, or what he had thought was
one. It was a structure. The morning light expanded in the opening
on the hill, creating the outline of a window. Slowly an outline
revealed the cracks and ruins of walls and towers. The hill was
a foundation with a huge ruin stretched across it. It had to be
the manor, or the remains of one.
renewed opportunity, he broke out in a run across the field. If
he could reach it in time, he could hide from the commandos. Its
size became apparent the closer he got. Whoever had lived there
had been richer than the Rockefellers; it was as much a castle as
a manor. Its walls were partially collapsed towards the back and
sides, its many windows broken and vines and other weeds had taken
residence inside the ruins as well as all around the building. Whatever
disaster had visited it, it still resisted deterioration.
the hill to the foundation, he heard voices yelling at him across
the meadow. Looking back, the commandos had cleared the woods and
spotted him. There were four of them, fully armed, with the fifth
one flying around nearby in the Marauder.
There he is!"
pulse rifles exploded all around him as he dodged around the rubble
at the foundation's base. He entered the manor through a gaping
hole in the back of the rear wall, the sounds of pulse weapons striking
the thick stone. As he jumped through, he could hear the sound of
the Marauder coming in close over the treetops.
The manor was
ornate, with heavily decorated rooms showing traces of its former
splendor. The remains of crystal chandeliers still hung delicately
in several rooms. Tattered tapestries draped some of the windows,
with colors still vivid despite the years of wear and tear. Large
pieces of carved furniture still remained intact, only dust coated
the grandeur they once eluded. Plaster and wooden beams littered
the floor and marred the opulence of the rooms. However long it
had been like this, looters had failed to confiscate many of the
on finding some kind of weapon. Anything he could use to defend
himself would aid his situation considerably. Maybe there were spears
or swords hanging on the walls in one of the rooms? Even an old
musket would be helpful. If he were going to die, he would rather
go down swinging and shooting.
room that served as the manors study the muffled sounds of the commandos
entering the ruins reached him. If something did not happen quickly,
his flight to this place would have been for nothing.
the bookcases, he scanned the few remaining books left on the shelves.
Throwing a heavy book at a commando was not an ideal option, but
he needed something. Dusty, vintage copies still sat on the shelves:
Crime and Punishment, The Divine Comedy, Collected Works
of Shakespeare, Atlas Shrugged, Beyond Good and Evil and The
Jewish Question caught his attention.
Spread out! He has to be in one of these rooms."
An almost inaudible
hiss caused him to turn around. One of the bookcases silently
swung open and revealed a brass pole that he had seen in old firehouses.
John looked down the chamber to see where the pole led. A deep black
maw stared back at him. The approaching footsteps of the Peacekeepers
told him his choices had run out.
arms and legs around the pole, he slid down into the unfamiliar
darkness. Looking up, the bookcase closed again, removing any trace
he had been in the study. The Peacekeepers entered the room, examined
it, and left just as quickly, still unable to locate him.
His feet finally
struck bottom. As they did, lights came on, illuminating a vast
cavern. John stood frozen in the spot he had landed, looking around
in astonishment. Some kind of command center was set up towards
the middle of the cavern. In the center was a dais with computer
equipment and monitors checking systems and regional broadcasts.
At one end, there were several vehicles parked, their details cloaked
in shadows. At the other end, there was an assortment of odd curios:
an oversized Lincoln penny stood upright at the far end, flanked
by a giant life-size replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and what looked
like a giant typewriter. Several glass booths displayed unusual
outfits- fetish wear, perhaps. Each one was lit from the inside,
showcasing their details.
He walked among
the items, greeting them with a combination of disbelief mixed with
wonder. Unlike the burned out manor up above, the cave was active
and well maintained. Whoever built it was still occupying and using
it. There was no trace of dust or ruination that had visited the
giant home above him. But what was the purpose of this place? Was
it a Peacekeeper installation? Did they even know about it?
the stairs to the dais in the center of the chamber, he scanned
the controls, looking for something that might remotely clue him
in. A large green button blinked on and off on the center of the
console. Shrugging his shoulders, he pressed it. It was good a place
to start as any.
A large flat
monitor mounted on the cave wall began to glow and flutter. A face
slowly came into focus on the screen. It was a man- older, judging
by his gray hair and countenance, but with an intense gaze that
demanded John's full attention, which he got without hesitation.
morning, Dr. Crichton." The man said to John, whose mouth hung
open in surprise. "I've been waiting for you for quite some
time. My name is Bruce Wayne·"
To be continued·
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